Campaign Confidential

Bill Clinton, Obama Want Joe Lieberman to Stay With Democrats

By Brett Lieberman

After not only supporting John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, but criticizing the Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman is fighting for his job as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. And Democrats must decide whether they want him to caucus with them.

While they have enough votes to remain in the majority regardless of Lieberman, they still need the senator from Connecticut because they’re shy of the 60 votes needed to cut of filibusters.

Lieberman has told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he does not want to relinquish his chairmanship, which plenty of Democrats want to take away from him as punishment.

Lieberman was re-elected as an Independent after losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, but continued caucusing with Democrats.

Now comes word that Lieberman may have some influential party leaders want Lieberman to keep caucusing with Democrats.

Talking Point Memo’s Josh Marshall reports that former President Bill Clinton is making calls on Lieberman’s behalf, and The Huffington Post reports that President-elect Barack Obama, who Lieberman campaigned against, also wants him to remain in the caucus.


Democrats Upgrade Blind Rabbi, Alabama Congressional Races

By Brett Lieberman

Updated

Buoyed by their cash advantage, national polling favoring Democratic candidates as well as local issues, congressional Democrats have upgraded several races including those of a blind rabbi in New Jersey and a 29-year-old Jewish lawyer in Alabama.

Dennis Shulman, a psychologist-turned-rabbi-turned-candidate, and Josh Segall, the founder of “Homegrown Alabama,” which encourages schools to purchase food from local farmers, are among eight candidates added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program.

Red to Blue races represent the districts held by Republicans that the DCCC believes may be winnable.

The designation often means that the DCCC will invest its own cash in the races. But it can also a signal to outside groups and donors which races are considered priorities to put their money.

Shulman is challenging U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., and Segall is challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers.

“Our grassroots campaign for change has been growing so rapidly in Northern New Jersey, and we welcome the additional support,” Shulman said in a statement.

Segall, in a statement, said he was “proud to have such strong national support…(that) will help us continue to get our message out.”

““With less than 21 days” to make their case to voters, DCCC Chairman Chris Vam Hollen of Maryland said the Red to Blue support will provide the challengers “the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive in November.”

We’ll update this post with reaction from Segall as well.


Hillary Clinton at the Philly JCC

By Brett Lieberman

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton joins U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz for a “conversation about the future of our nation” this morning at the Jewish Community Center – Klein Branch in Philadelphia.


Top Obama Aides Dispached to Florida, Ohio

By Brett Lieberman

With three weeks to go until Election Day, Barack Obama’s campaign seems to be betting the kibbutz on three states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“Those three are the three swing states with the largest Jewish population that really has the most likely chance of affecting the outcome,” Dan Shapiro, Obama’s national Jewish outreach coordinator told the Forward Sunday night.

Public polls show the contest is close in Ohio and Florida, but Obama with a wide lead in Pennsylvania, though campaign aides and political insiders believe the Pennsylvania race is narrower.

With three weeks until Election Day, Barack Obama’s top Jewish outreach coordinators are taking up residence in Ohio and Florida, while the campaign has added staff to its Jewish outreach efforts in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“I’m spending two of the next three weeks in Ohio as an indicator of how we’re deploying our resources,” Shapiro said before a rally near Cleveland at the Landerhaven banquet hall headlined by Dennis Ross, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, U.S. Rep. Jane Harman of California and Alan Solow, a Chicago Jewish leader and a longtime Obama friend.

While Shapiro will be based in Ohio, but will continue to travel to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Chicago and Washington, D.C., Eric Lynn, Obama’s national Jewish vote director will be in Florida, where another staffer was also recently added.

Democrats also have a dedicated state staffer in Ohio for Jewish outreach and several people devoting significant time around Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Shapiro allowed that the the Jewish vote could still play a critical role in Nevada or Colorado, two other battlegrounds Democrats hope to win.


Democrats: Orthodox Jews Come On Home

By Brett Lieberman

Orthodox Jews represent an estimated 10 percent to 11 percent of the American Jewish population. They also represent the fastest growing segment of the American Jewish community and overwhelmingly vote for Republican presidential candidates. They still often vote for Democratic House and Senate candidates.

That wasn’t always the case. Orthodox Jews used to be more open to Democratic candidates.

With demographic estimates and that history in mind, Democrats hope to persuade Orthodox Jews to vote Democratic again – or at least remain open to the possibility.

“It at times might seem like an oxymoron – Orthodox Jews in the Democratic Party,” said Jeff Wice, an activist involved in the National Jewish Democratic Council. He moderated a panel discussion Wednesday at the organization’s Washington conference on what Democrats can do to reach out to Orthodox voters.

“Will this group be the Log Cabin Democrats?” he joked in a reference to Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that is often at the fringe’s of its party’s politics.

Panelists, including Rabbi Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union, pollster Mark Mellman, and Rabbi Yeruchim Silber of the Metropolitan Jewish Health System, predicted that Democrats have a good case to make to Orthodox voters. But they predicted it will be no quick fix.

Silber said not much can probably be done in the remaining 40 or so days until the election. He called for Democrats to create a permanent Orthodox coordinator to build relationships for the 2012 presidential election and beyond.

“Bring them back home to the party they felt comfortable in,” he said.

They may have their work cut out for them. The panel discussion drew an audience of fewer than 30 people. At least one-fifth of those in attendance were reporters or NJDC staff.


Democrats Feeling More Confident About the Jewish Vote

By Brett Lieberman

Every four years, Democrats go through a period of hand ringing. Will the Jewish vote turn out for Democrats – as usually is the case – or will that be the year that Republicans make inroads with the Jewish vote?

“There is not going to be a problem with the Democrats with the Jewish vote,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told leading Jewish Democrats.

Dean, addressing the National Jewish Democratic Council annual Washington conference, called this “crisis of confidence” a specious issue.

Democrats and the Jewish community’s core relationship based on a set of shared values – strong support for Israel, a sense of community, commitment to others, separation of church and state, support for health care, justice and the belief in science as a legitimate discipline – remains strong, he said.

“Those values are passed on at the Passover table, they are passed on in Shul,” Dean said.

As for support for Israel: “We can go toe-to-toe with the Republicans on support for Israel. Actually, I think we’re smarter in terms of how we get there,” he said.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is doing a better job to bridge gaps with the Jewish community and other groups, including Evangelical Christians by emphasizing areas of agreement. Among those Dean cited was addressing concerns about global climate change, poverty and genocide in Darfur.


Obama Chats With 900 Rabbis on Issues and Renewal

By Brett Lieberman

Rosh Hashanah is more than a week away, but Barack Obama drew upon the High Holy Days themes of renewal and rededication in a conference call with more than 900 rabbis.

“I know that for rabbis this is the busiest time of the year as you prepare for the High Holy Days,” the Democratic presidential candidate told the rabbis on Thursday, according to a statement his campaign provided.

“So I am grateful for a few minutes of your time. I extend my New Years greetings to you and to your congregations and communities. I want to wish everybody a Shana Tovah and I hope that you will convey my wishes to all of those you pray and celebrate with this Rosh Hashanah,” Obama said. “The Jewish New Year is unlike the new years of any other cultures. In part because it’s not simply a time for revelry; it’s a time for what might be called determined rejoicing. A time to put your affairs with other people in order so you can honestly turn to God. A time to recommit to the serious work of tikkun olam―of mending the world.”

Obama was introduced on the call by Rabbi Sam Gordon of Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Ill. and Rabbi Eliott Dorf, vice-chair of the Conservative Movements Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and Professor at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. The two are involved in the new Rabbis for Obama group.

Read more


Biden to Headline Jewish Democrats' Conference

By Brett Lieberman

U.S. Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, is expected to headline the National Jewish Democratic Council’s upcoming Washington conference, which is focused on mobilizing the Jewish vote, NJDC officials said.

Democrats hope that Biden of Delaware will be able to counter some of the influence that Senator Joseph Lieberman has had among Jewish voters in crucial battleground states including Florida. Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, has been an enormous asset for Republican John McCain, reassuring voters about his support for Israel among other issues as well as raise doubts about Democrat Barack Obama’s experience.

NJDC’s September 23-24 program at the Washington Hilton includes sessions on handicapping the 2008 elections, how new media changes the way voters can be reached, and common issues facing the Jewish and African American communities.

The time and date of Biden’s address has not been set. Other unconfirmed invited speakers include former Vice President Al Gore, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Obama.


Report: Lieberman Not Welcome to Break Bread With Democrats

By Brett Lieberman

Retribution was swift for U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman after the Connecticut Indepedent/Democrat’s speech supporting John McCain and criticizing Barack Obama at last week’s Republican National Convention.

Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call [Registration required] reports that he’s no longer welcome at the Democrats’ weekly lunches and biweekly lunches of committee chairman.

Speculation remains on what will happen to Lieberman’s chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.

At least for now, Democrats need his vote now to remain in the majority. But with Democrats expected to pick up seats in the November elections that may not be the case for long.

UPDATE: Lieberman tells The Hill: “I think it’s probably wise for me and for my colleagues in the Democratic caucus to dine somewhere else for the next few weeks.”


Ed Koch: U.S. 'Safer' With Obama

By Brett Lieberman

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who bucked the Democratic Party and endorsed President Bush over Democrat John Kerry in 2004, has no regrets about that decision. Kerry did not fully understood the need to support Israel at the time, he says.

“That is not an issue in this election,” Koch writes in a statement today. “Both parties and their candidates have made clear, before and during this election campaign their understanding of the need to support Israel and oppose acts of terrorism waged against it by Hamas and other Muslim supporters of terrorism.”

For him, it comes down to who will “best protect and defend America.”

The answer, according to Koch, is that “the country is safer in the hands of Barack Obama, leader of the Democratic Party and protector of the philosophy of that party.”

Besides issues such as civil rights, health care, taxation and abortion rights, Koch writes that “Frankly, it would scare me if [GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin] were to succeed John McCain in the presidency.”

Here’s Koch’s full statement:

Read more


Too Much or Too Little Faith in Politics?

By Brett Lieberman

From Muslim imams to conservative rabbis and practically every faith in between, religion and religious leaders were front and center at the recent Republican and Democratic political conventions. Expect more of the same in the coming two months as Barack Obama and John McCain and their political parties court the religious vote.

But is this a good thing?

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, a frequent opponent of the intersection of government, politics and religion, says “This may be good politics, but it is not healthy for our nation” as he weighs in with an Op-Ed for JTA.

What do you think?


Lieberman Still Part of GOP Convention Schedule

By Brett Lieberman

Republicans apparently couldn’t pass up the chance to include Democrat-turned-Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman as part of their convention program, and of course the chance to poke Democrats.

Lieberman, who was scheduled to speak during Monday’s opening program that was abbreviated because of Hurricane Gustav, will speak Tuesday night, the Associated Press reports.

The changing line-up means that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be bumped.

Lieberman told CNN he plans to talk about ” “why I am an independent Democrat voting for Sen. McCain,” according to AP.


Schumer Plans Florida Swing to Court Jewish Vote

By Brett Lieberman

Hoping to make up ground in a key battleground state, Democrats are sending in some of their big guns to court the Jewish vote.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer will pinch hit for Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama in the Sunshine state this weeend.

Schumer, architect of the Democrats’ gains in the Senate, will speak with voters at the Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura, Temple Solel in Hollywood and Temple Beth Shalom in Century Village in Boca Raton on Sunday, Sept. 7.

Republican John McCain has stronger than usual support for a GOP candidate in part because of concerns about Obama among Jewish voters. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman has also provided a critical boost for McCain among Jewish voters.


Slim Pickings in the Twin Cities

By Brett Lieberman

Even before John McCain and the GOP scaled back on this week’s Republican National Convention, there weren’t nearly as many public events geared toward Jewish voters on the schedule as the Democrats held last week in Denver. Republicans have been hoping to win over Jewish voters. The lack of events targeting Jewish or Israel issues may simply reflect the fact that the vast majority of Jewish voters have historically supported Democratic candidates.

Here’s most of what’s on the table now. This could all change given the uncertainty caused by Gustav pummeling the Gulf Coast. We’ll add more as they become known.

Monday, September 1 American Jewish Committee and Jewish Community Relations Council host a discussion on achieving energy independence.

American Jewish Committee reception for diplomatic corps

Tuesday, September 2

American Jewish Committee and Jewish Community Relations Council host a discussion on advancing the Indian-Jewish relationship.

Roundtable Discussion with RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks on “The GOP and Issues Effecting the Jewish Community”

Salute to GOP Governors

Wednesday, Sept. 3

American Jewish Committee and Jewish Community Relations Council host a discussion on issues for a growing Latino-Jewish coalition.

Thursday, September 4

American Jewish Committee and Jewish Community Relations Council host a discussion on America and the quest for Middle East peace and security.

Salute to Pro-Israel Elected Officials

Senator Joseph Lieberman, a staunch McCain supporter and the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, was scheduled to speak during Monday night’s program that’s been scrapped. It’s unclear whether he and other canceled speakers will be rescheduled.


Making History in Denver

By Brett Lieberman

Democrat Barack Obama is set tonight to make history by becoming the first African-American presidential nominee of a major political party.

Hours earlier Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, will do his part to make history as the first rabbi to deliver the invocation on the night of a nominee’s acceptance speech.

Saperstein will take the stage at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium sometime between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Senior Obama campaign officials and Jewish communal leaders say it was no accident that a rabbi was asked to do the invocation. The campaign has made a big push to win over Jewish voters and also appear religiously inclusive.

When we asked for a preview of his message, Saperstein promised to send us a text message at 3 a.m. just as Obama’s campaign did to announce his vice presidential running-mate selection.

“I’m still working on what to say and I probably will until the last minute,” he said earlier in the week.

Read more


Report: 'Rove Tried To Kill Lieberman VP Pick'

By Brett Lieberman

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman rejected a request by former presidential aide Karl Rove to withdraw his name from consideration as John McCain’s vice presidential pick, according to a report by Politico.

Three sources confirmed the effort by the controversial architect of President Bush’s election and one person told the news organization that Lieberman refused to make the call.

There’s strong support for choosing Lieberman within the McCain campaign, according to columnist Robert Novak, who warns picking Lieberman would be disastrous.

The Democrat-turned-Independent senator has campaigned for McCain, the Republican presidential candidate and a good friend, because Lieberman supports his stances on Iraq and foreign policy. His support for McCain, and sharp criticism for Democrat Barack Obama and Democrats, has widened a rift between Lieberman and his Democratic friends.

Reports say that McCain has selected his running mate and will notify that individual on Thursday. The pair will make their first joint appearance at a large campaign rally in Ohio on Friday.

While Lieberman appeals to many moderates and Independent voters, Jewish voters and the move would bolster McCain’s reputation as a maverick, conservatives such as talk show host Rush Limbaugh have warned such a move would blow-up the Republican Party. Lieberman and McCain agree on foreign policy matters, but Lieberman’s support for abortion rights and many other social and domestic issue positions run counter to conservative and Republican agendas.

Selecting Lieberman would certainly shake up the presidential race and be seen as unconventional – two things that analysts say McCain need to do.


Democrats Predict 'Historic' Jewish Vote for Obama

By Brett Lieberman

Barack Obama is under-performing in his support among Jewish voters compared to Democratic candidates’ historical performance, according to pollsters. Yet Jewish leaders in Congress predict the soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee will exceed Democrats’ usual support within the Jewish community.

“We believe there is broad, deep and enthusiastic support for Barack Obama in the Jewish community,” U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said in a news conference announced after elected officials from Florida voiced concerns about the response to Obama in that key state.

Obama’s been a strong and unwavering supporter of Israel — “He never flinched from it,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. — and has also supported legislative proposals to prohibit U.S. pension funds and companies from doing business with Iran, Democratic leaders said.

“Let the Jewish community know that Barack Obama is a friend of Israel,” said U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

Obama’s support for abortion rights, gun control, health care, Social Security and other domestic issues is more in sync with the views of Jewish voters, they said.

Earlier this week, pollsters Anna Greenberg and Mark Mellman said that Obama is garnering the support of around 60% to 62% of Jewish voters, which puts him at the low end of the spectrum that Democratic candidates have historically enjoyed. Since the early 1990s when the Republican Party embraced the evangelical community, the Jewish vote has shifted heavily to Democrats, who have won close to 80% of the Jewish vote.

The lawmakers contend that Obama’s support will grow to record levels by the November 4 election.

“The support that Sen. Obama enjoys …is substantial and growing,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla.

California Rep. Adam Schiff predicted “historically high” support for Obama.

Nobody doubts that Obama will win a majority of the Jewish vote. But the question remains whether the margin will be a historically high or low.

“I believe Obama is poised to do well,” said Wexler.


Middle Class Holds Key to 2008

By Jennifer Siegel

For some interesting analysis of middle class voting patterns in 2006 and what they mean for 2008, check out this report from the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way.



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